As you bike it.
The humble bicycle remains one of the greatest inventions of the industrial age especially as we enter this new era of global austerity. In this article I’m talking about the merits of cycling but not as a leisure activity.
I’m preaching cycling as an efficient, economic and life prolonging means of transportation.
It’s 4.45am and I’m getting my bike out of the shed. It’s February so it’s obviously pitch black at this ungodly hour. There is a light drizzle blowing in on a gentle south-westerly breeze.
My journey from Knutsford to Stockport takes me just under an hour and my brain wakes up and starts thinking as I pass through Mobberley, Wilmslow, Handforth and Cheadle.
Ninety per cent of the route has street lights and around 10 cars pass me on the way (it is the middle of the night after all). From Stockport rail station I catch the 5.52 am Transpennine Express to Sheffield. After a day of professional inactivity a return train gets me back into Stockport exactly 11 hours later from where I cycle back home to Knutsford.
As someone who has recently taken up daily commuting by bike (and train) I want to tell the good car drivers of Knutsford that traveling quite large distances by bicycle is easier, safer and faster than you think it is.
Cycling is easy. Gentle cycling requires the same exertion as walking and it is far lower impact than running. Why else do you see packs of lycra-clad octogenarians cruising around Cheshire most Sundays?
Cycling is safe (use lights and helmet) and it’s fast – often competitive with the car for shorter journeys once you factor in parking and congestion. It saves you money since it costs 1-3 pence per mile compared with 20-50 pence per mile for car travel which has depreciation, servicing and tax to consider as well as petrol. Did you also know that cycling also uses around 40 calories per mile for the average person – I burn off a couple of Big Mac’s per day.
“And while I couldn’t possibly condone ‘drink cycling’, you’re very unlikely to be stopped for it or mow down a family of four as you wobble along”That’s it really. I can’t tell you anything more other than to say try it. Dust down your under utilized machine and build up your mileage gradually. Use the train for part of the way if your journey to work is too far to start cycling in one hit (e.g. Manchester). Northern Rail trains stopping at Knutsford take bikes without reservations. A shower before starting the working day is rather essential after much time spent in the saddle. If your work doesn’t have a shower there’s sure to be one nearby if you ask around.
I’ve focused on commuting but a weekend trip to Altrincham, Wilmslow or Northwich can all easily be done in less than 40 minutes. The illustration gives gentle cycling times from Knutsford. Clearly big shopping trips by bike are a no-no – unless you have a David Cameron style support vehicle driven by your spouse.
Finally, maybe the best argument in favour of getting on your bike is that it makes you happy. Researchers who measure happiness have consistently found the happiest country in Europe to be Denmark where around 50% of teenagers journeys are by bike (compared with a miserable 2% in the UK). Bicycle traffic jams don’t exist in the UK although, paradoxically, they do in Copenhagen. So with the seasonal cycle warming up and the economic cycle slowing down, the time is right to get on your cycle to slim down, save money and cheer up.
Useful information for commuting to work by bike can be found at: http://www.cycletoworknow.com
Interesting bike rack link: http://blog.wired.com/cars/2009/02/if-you-build-it.html